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Covid-19 Is Indeed Relatively Harmless for Younger Adults

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:


Jeremy Samuel Faust’s, Harlan Krumholz’s, and Rochelle Walensky’s op-ed “People Thought Covid-19 Was Relatively Harmless for Younger Adults. They Were Wrong.” (Dec. 16) is a prime example of how to convey a false impression by painting an incomplete picture

Here’s the authors’ core claim: “Young adults are dying at historic rates. In research published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we found that among U.S. adults ages 25 to 44, from March through the end of July, there were almost 12,000 more deaths than were expected based on historical norms” – a fact that, the authors imply, is sufficient to reject the belief that Covid poses no great risk to young adults. But closer examination advises against any such rejection.

First, in their op-ed the authors neglect a key fact revealed in their academic paper – namely (and quoting from that paper) “Only 38% of all-cause excess deaths in adults aged 25 to 44 years recorded during the pandemic were attributed directly to COVID-19.” This fact means that of the 12,000 excess deaths mentioned in the op-ed, only 4,560 can be said to have been caused by Covid. And so of the all the young adults who, statistically, were otherwise expected to die from March through July (64,167), the number killed by Covid was only 7.1 percent.

Second and more importantly, the total population of Americans ages 25-44 is 87.58 million. Thus, the 4,560 young adults who the authors identify as having been killed by Covid is a mere 0.0052 percent of this number. Even if we annualize these Covid deaths, the resulting figure of 10,944 is only 0.0125 percent of the total number of Americans ages 25-44.

Bottom line: Covid-19 is indeed relatively harmless for younger adults.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

And note this screen shot from a CDC page.


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